A dispute over ownership and management of a popular off-campus bar has led to a fight over its liquor permit, a lawsuit and a claim of theft.
Court documents and a police report show that Gregory Knoob, who bought Bullwinkles in April, claims that the bar’s former manager, Ted Lawson, entered the bar on Sept. 23, changed the locks, disabled the security cameras and took $100,000.
Records show that the next day, Lawson’s lawyer sent Knoob a notice that they were terminating an agreement in which Knoob would manage the bar until its liquor permit was transferred.
A copy of the notice in court records states Knoob encouraged the presence of underage guests at Bullwinkles and that the Ohio Department of Public Safety is investigating eight violations of underage drinking that occurred from July through September.
The process of buying a bar typically can go on for months due to the time it takes to transfer a state liquor permit from the old owner to the new one. During this time, buyers and sellers essentially have “joint custody” of the bar under a management agreement they both sign, according to court records.
Knoob paid $300,000 in April to purchase Bullwinkles from 1774, a corporation owned by Melissa Kampman and managed by Lawson, according to a copy of the agreement in court records.
Attorneys for Knoob and Lawson declined to comment. Lawson did not return phone calls. Knoob did not respond to messages. Kampman could not be reached.
Knoob filed suit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on Sept. 26 and claimed actions done by Kampman and Lawson caused “irreparable harm” to his reputation. Knoob is seeking an injunction and unspecified compensation.
The lawsuit claims that Lawson has “consistently interfered” in Knoob’s operations, starting a few months after he began managing the bar. According to the complaint, Lawson entered the nightclub in July, changed the locks and demanded Knoob pay an additional $150,000 towards the purchase of the bar.
Knoob claims he paid that $150,000 under an amended agreement that allowed him to continue managing Bullwinkles, according to court documents.
A police report was also filed on Knoob’s behalf with the Columbus Division of Police Sept. 25 regarding the theft claim. The report’s narrative states that Lawson took $100,000 from the bar Sept. 23.
The lawsuit provides more details on the incident, stating that after Lawson entered the bar and disabled the cameras, he “used a crowbar to open the interior office” and changed the credit card processing to his name in addition to taking the $100,000.
A hearing date is yet to be scheduled in Franklin County Court. Without comment or information in court documents, it is not clear who is now managing the bar, which is still open.